"I've got a bowling ball in my stomach and a desert in my mouth"
- Tori Amos (Crucify)
That sums up my early thoughts on labour. My water started trickling at 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon and within a few hours it was more like a waterfall. I spent an hour lounging in the hammock, listening to music, making notes and relaxing. The Tori Amos song came on and I laughed and laughed. Perfect. I was feeling a lot of nerves, some relief that things were in motion and a good dose of anticipation.
I had a few very early, mild contractions at about 6:30 while we were eating. I was restless and wandering for the early evening and talked to the midwife around 7:45. I was having contractions 6-10 minutes apart but very mellow so we decided I was probably best served by heading to bed and trying to get in a nap before the real deal kicked in.
I think somewhere between 8:30 and 9 I noticed the intesity increasing but not the frequency. I asked the pit crew to get the labour pool ready because I was starting to want a refuge. By the time I talked to the midwife again at 9:15ish I was definately in active labour already and was headed into the pool. She noted that she was on her way. I think my body was starting to go into shock from the speed of things already at that point. I was shaking and every time I moved a muscle a new contraction would fire up and leave me dreading the next. I couldn't recall why "natural" childbirth seemed like such a good idea.
The labour pool and birthing room I had prepared was exactly what I hoped it would be. It was cozy, quiet and private. I felt like a hippie freak when I set it up but it was worth it. It had low light, sari curtains and matching music.
What I did forget was that no matter how awesome the setup was, labour was still going to be rough. I wished I could have appreciated it more but on the other hand was very, very glad that things were moving quickly because I had no desire to prolong those particular moments. At some stage Jeremy noted what a miracle labour & birth really were and I apparently muttered something about "disaster" being more appropriate than "miracle" (Milagro in Spanish). I wasn't feeling particularly brave, strong or balanced. Stoic might be more appropriate. Suck it up Tannis, suck it up. It will end.
Ivy had gone to bed but knew it was the night for the baby to be born and couldn't sleep. She wandered in and out of the living room and spent time with Grandma. She apparently wanted to help me very much and all she could do was let me use her special plastic cup (I didn't want glass). So sweet. She ended up staying awake for the whole thing but didn't want to watch, which is what we had pre-arranged. She did fantastic, I was worried she'd get more upset. Ella slept through it all but woke up and pattered out of her room at 4:30 am to meet little brother.
It must have been around 10:20 when I asked Jeremy to call the midwife back to tell her I could feel the baby moving down and to find out where she was. Luckily she was only 10 minutes away at that point. By the time she had everything hauled in the door I was starting to feel pressure to push. At one point I looked at the midwife and announced that I was starting to panic but other than that I don't think I said much. Every time anything touched me it set off more intense contractions, I don't recall that from other times as much. Even the doppler to check heartbeat seemed unbearable.
Everything flew into high gear and they somehow managed to haul me out of the tub despite my protests. I was quite clear ahead of time that I didn't want to give birth in the tub but of course when the time came, moving seemed like a stretch to say it kindly. I'm glad they're so good at that, I think it went something like this: "Tannis, it's time to get out". "uh, no." "Okay, Jeremy grab her other arm and on the count of three lift your leg and here we go". And off we went.
This was the first time I remember feeling the size of the head and having fleeting thoughts that it wouldn't fit through my bones. I believe I pushed actively for about 15 minutes. The midwife coached me heavily through the crowning with when to push and when to hold back and he made it through without a scratch! I am still blown away by what the body can do and that I had any control over it at that stage. The shoulders came out more easily this time and I got to reach down and pull him onto my belly.
Little Ezra was packed full of mucous on arrival and needed a lot of help clearing his passages. The ambulance got called, just in case things would take a turn the wrong way but we were thankful to not need it by the time they arrived (which was amazingly fast). After things had calmed down Ezra visibly relaxed and his breathing improved. Many, many thanks to the attendants for knowing when to play it safe and when to trust in the amazing power of primal bonding to help things along. What an insane job they have - I'm so thankful they do it. Throughout that time I didn't feel any anxiety or concern about being at home. Everything went as it should in situations where things aren't going smoothly, just as it's designed to do. I attribute my calmness to a combination of trust in caregivers and birth-high hormones. I could see Ezra was breathing and was a decent colour and figured if he really needed help from the hospital, off we would go.
Fast and furious, I think that sums it up. I've always fantasized about a fast labour and finally got it. Ezra and I were both in shock but I wouldn't say I'd ever choose to draw it out longer, as if it was ever a choice. Now that the physical effects of labour/birth are fading I'm feeling more and more thankful for the way everything went. I've had great pregnancies, good labours, and three healthy children. I don't even know how to express my gratitude for it all. I hope I never take it for granted and we chose "Milagro" as Ezra's second name to remind us of the miracle that all of our children really are.